Thoughts from the Insomniac Ward

Don't know why I'm not asleep, but Morpheus is obviously running an errand to some other head tonight. Instead, here's what my head has been coming up with:

2:40 a.m. I've been whittling away at the waxy yellow buildup of spam. There are now under 70,000 messages in my Movable Type mailbox. What I'll do with all that extra memory I can't imagine.

2:41 For the past couple of days, I've been wallowing in old folk/country/rockabilly tunes, particularly those by John Prine, Roger Miller, Dwight Yoakum, and Steve Earle, as well as Kris Kristofferson's The Silver-Tongued Devil and I, an album I remember my parents spinning fairly regularly in my youth. But just now my playlist rolled over the Dresden Doll's breathtaking piano-and-drums pop masterpiece, "The Jeep Song," and I've got to say it's a bracing change--kind of like that moment you bite the lime while doing tequila shots.

2:45 A weird NBA draft: no Carolina players were involved. Not that I object--it means we're getting everybody back next year (except juco transfer Justin Knox and some of our deep reserves). There were rumors that former Tar Heel point guard Raymond Felton has been traded to the Portland Trail Blazers, though, so he won't be fighting with Ty Lawson for playing time in Denver next year--good for both of them, though I know George Karl would love to have two UNC-trained floor generals on his roster.

2:47 One other draft note: Kyrie Irving got drafted first after playing a grand total of 11 games for Duke. I have to wonder if some Blue Devil fans would be happier had he not shown up and raised expectations.

2:49 As we get ready to send the boys off to the beach for a week, I've realized the horrible trap of parenthood: once you have kids, even after they leave home, you never get to stop worrying about them. No matter how adult or capable they become, you're still mentally waiting for them to call and come give them a ride, or bail them out, or something. The only way to avoid it is to die young, and frankly, I don't think it's worth it.

2:53  The plan for my next bird-related outing is just about complete. I'm hoping for a good day in Kentucky's Carter Caves State Park, though I'm holding a couple of spots on the Ohio River in reserve just in case. We're not stopping in Indiana, Illinois, or Missouri, where I've birded before, but after we stop for ribs in Kansas City, we'll hit the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve near Emporia, KA, and then head up to Nebraska to follow the Platte up to Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge. There have GOT to be some prairie species I've never seen before out there, and it'll be my first chance in years to spot Dickcissels and Upland Sandpipers.

2:57 I've got to pick a Shakespeare play to teach next year. In many ways, this is great news, because it shows that I'm no longer teaching a mix of English and public speaking classes; instead, I've been moved to the English department on a full-time basis. For the last seven years, I've been focused on American lit in my junior-level English classes, which has meant no Bard; now that I'm doing sophomore English as well, I get to dive into him again. Problem is, most of my colleagues seem to be favoring The Merchant of Venice, which I've never taught and don't particularly like. (The combination of the frothy Three Caskets plot and the deadly earnest Pound of Flesh plot has never worked for me; it's like trying to do The Passion of the Christ and Life of Brian in the same movie.) Luckily, one of my more iconoclastic colleagues is planning on A Midsummer Night's Dream, which I have taught and quite like. Heretic pride!

3:05 Athenaeum's cover of Randy Travis's "Forever and Ever, Amen" is truly excellent. And you can own it with a quick click of your mouse and a purchase of Songs for Sixty-Five Roses. And all proceeds go to cystic fibrosis research!

3:07 We've been watching the first season of Fringe, the DVDs of which the Orange Library has been kind enough to lend us. Though it has taken a very definite upward trend in the latter half of the season, it started out as sort of a monster-of-the-week retread of The X-Files, right down to the credits' mixture of strange images and captions about paranormal phenomena ("TELEPORTATION" "PRECOGNITION" etc.), accompanied by tinkly keyboard music. It didn't help that the main character was sort of a blend of Mulder and Scully: FBI agent Olivia Dunham (played by Anna Torv), who's tougher than either of them, but not as skeptical as Scully or as gonzo as Mulder.

Luckily, Olivia is an interesting character in her own right. She's not at all invulnerable, but she's an utterly capable and dedicated agent who'll chase a suspect on foot (no heels or skirts at work for her) or go into a sensory-deprivation tank to get information in a way so improbable it doesn't bear repeating. There are two other good reasons to enjoy her character: first, the writers almost never play the damsel-in-distress card; when Olivia is on the job, she's got (pardon the pun) agency, enough to do the investigating and brave the danger herself, rather than having someone else come get her out of trouble. Second, she's portrayed as attractive, but not at all glammed up. Her costuming, makeup, and hairstyling is not at all frumpy, but it's purely pragmatic; as a result, she comes off as no more beautiful than the attractive people you know personally, which makes her easy to sympathize with. (Granted, every once in a while you'll realize that, like most TV actresses, she's actually extremely beautiful, but it's not pounded into your skull.)

The other characters are a mixed bag. One of her two sidekicks, Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) is intermittently interesting: a wayward genius with unsavory connections, a wide sarcastic streak, and an obvious crush on Olivia. The other, however, is Dr. Walter Bishop, a literally mad scientist played by John Noble (best known as Denethor in The Lord of the Rings). Walter has an IQ of 190 and apparently worked for the government for decades, creating things beyond the realm of ordinary science (and in some cases credibility), but he's spent the last 17 years in a mental institution, so he's a tad unreliable, as well as periodically obsessed with foodstuffs not available in the hospital.

So: A clunky start, to be sure, but in recent weeks, the shadowy conspiracy that kept getting paid lip service in early episodes has become significantly more important.

3:33 That makes 2.5 hours since I actually tried to go to sleep. Maybe it's worth trying again. If not, I've got a copy of The Kite Runner here, and it's been pretty good so far...

Good night! Sleep tight!

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on June 24, 2011 2:37 AM.

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